There is an old saying about history repeating itself if we are not smart enough to learn from it. This seems to be happening right now with regards to credit card debt levels in the United States. It was less than a decade ago that the great recession financially rocked the United States. Prior to the recession, things were cruising right along, economically speaking. And that means that credit card debt levels were pretty high. Of course, once the bottom fell out, all of that consumer credit card debt led to financial disasters for millions of American consumers. That same type of debt is rising to a level that is pretty darned close to pre-recession numbers.

Take for example the closing of last year. In the final quarter of 2015, consumers racked up a sizeable $52.4 billion in credit card debt. That number can be so hard to digest that it is difficult to understand how much debt affects the average household. When adjusted to an average per household, the average credit card debt comes out to roughly $7,800. And factor in the fact that we started off last year in pretty good shape. People were getting their tax returns, some people were getting annual raises and there were even plenty of workers getting bonuses. This is all money that could have helped to pay down consumer loan debt. But it turns out that credit card charging in the following quarters continued to climb.

A big part of this problem comes down to the fact that most people are not saving enough money. As explained by Bruce McClary from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, “They have less than $400 set aside for an emergency expense. That is just a setup for disaster down the road, because then the balances increase, the payments become harder to make, and people start falling behind.”

When people have to pay large expenses that they were not prepared for, they start to rely on their credit cards. And that is usually because they do not have adequate funds in their personal savings accounts. But there are other reasons that people get a little too fast and loose with their credit card use. Some people use them to try to make up for normal expenses that they cannot manage to squeeze into their normal budgets. There is also the fact that wages have not increased a whole heck of a lot in recent years. And unemployment levels, while better than they were a few years ago, are still high enough to have an impact on how much people use their credit cards, just to get by from one week to the next.

Let’s face it, credit cards are still readily available and it is often too tempting for people to pass up using them. Studies show that altogether Americans owe more than $900 billion on their credit cards. That is a level that has not been seen since just before the great recession in 2007.

People need to do what they can to get financially stable, and prepared for recessions – big or small – that are bound to happen down the road. To do so, consumers will need to do what they can to pay off high credit card balances. Everyone should take a look at their household budgets, find places where reductions or cuts can occur, and then use that money to pay off their credit card debt a little faster. No one needs to necessarily stop using credit cards completely, but we can all do our part to trim our debt considerably, and to save a bit more money to take care of unforeseen expenses.